Tour de France 2012: Stage 18
The Manx Missile makes a move
5:40PM, Fri. Jul. 20, 2012
Blagnac all the 222.5 km (138 miles) to Brive-La-Gaillarde. One category-3 climb, and three category-4 climbs.
The big question today is whether or not the stage will end in a sprint finish or a break away win. Many are predicting a break away win, but don't underestimate the sprinters. They have had to take a back seat these last few days and I think they'll be looking to test their legs before the big sprint into Paris.
In two separate interviews with Christopher Froome (Britain) and his team leader Bradley Wiggins (Britain), when asked whether or not they were going for the stage win yesterday, Froome stated that the plan all along was to stay together, but Wiggins claimed that they had intended for the stage win. Seems like the two of them are both being so cautious about stepping on one another's toes in regards to domestique-teamleader etiquette. I say we put their girlfriends on bikes and let them have at it on the road like real men.
• There is a crash early on involving Philippe Gilbert and a rather shaggy dog. The Tour is no stranger to animal intrusions, but it did take quite a while for Gilbert to get a new bike and rejoin the main group.
• Bobke, one of our primary commentators who has had, what I like to believe, is quite a storied affair with rider Peter Sagan (Slovakia) this Tour, stated before today's stage, that although Sagan is a strong rider, he would never make it as an overall contender because he is not very strong in the high mountain stages of the Tour. Did he just break up with Sagan on air?! Rude!
• There is a 16-man break away early on, but the peloton is scarcely giving them any time. It's clear that the teams are looking for a sprint finish today. But with the likes of Alexandre Vinokourov in the break away (who came in a disappointing second place in one of this week's stages due to coming unclipped from his pedal), will the break away prove more ambitious than the peloton?
• New French president, François Hollande, was shown on camera in the back of a car on the road watching the stage unfold.
• Vinokourov and Co. are still in a break away at 4 km to go, but the peloton is fast approaching and it seems no one is very eager to put more effort into the break away except Vino who is seen flailing about in a vain attempt to get the other riders going.
• And suddenly, there it is. The Manx Missile Mark Cavendish (Isle of Man) who has, for once in his short life, not been the centre of his team's attention, is behind Wiggo who seems to be leading him out for the sprint! Interesting to note that Wiggo is, for the second time this Tour, taking on lead out man duties, a task which would normally be seen as beneath the overall contender. Our commentators suggest that this is Wiggo, "paying something back to the team" that has worked so hard to keep him in yellow this Tour. Good show!
￼￼￼ • In remarkable moves we haven't seen from Mark in quite a while, he dashes out behind his makeshift Sky lead out train to break away from the peloton, pass each of the break away riders and make it over the finish line with time to spare. Vous nous avez manqué, Manxy! We missed you, Manxy! In a post-stage interview with the Missile we learn that team Sky had, in fact, planned to take it easy on today's stage, but Manxy begged to be allowed to sprint and Wiggo was supportive of the effort.
Jersey Lineup End of Stage 18
• Yellow Jersey (best overall): Bradley Wiggins (Britain) Sky
• White Jersey (best young rider): Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC
• Green Jersey (best sprinter): Peter Sagan (Slovakia) Liquigas
• Polka Dot Jersey (King of the Mountains): Thomas Voeckler (France) Europcar
Here are the top 10 finalists in the Tour after Stage 18:
1) Bradley Wiggins (Britain) Sky
2) Christopher Froome (Britain) Sky
3) Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Liquigas
4) Jurgen Van Den Broeck Belgium) Lotto-Belisol
5) Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC
6) Cadel Evans (Australia) BMC
7) Haimar Zubeldia (Spain) RadioShack Nissan Trek
8) Pierre Rolland (France) Europcar
9) Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia) Astana
10) Thibaut Pinot (France) FDJ-Bigmat